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Review: Office 2016 for Mac offers a new interface and better features

Preston Gralla | April 2, 2015
Mac users of Office who have felt left out in the cold by Microsoft (because the last version, Office 2011 for Mac, was released in October 2010) now have reason to be pleased: The preview of Office 2016 for Mac attempts to bring the suite out of the dark ages and into the modern world.

Not everything is rosy in this new version of Excel, though. You can't build pivot charts in Excel, which is unfortunate, because they're a great way to present complex information at a glance, and are useful when creating dashboards meant to display a great deal of data at once.

PowerPoint 2016

PowerPoint has gotten the same kind of collaboration features as Word and suffers from the same limitation — it's not true real-time collaboration because changes don't show up until the person you're collaborating with saves them.

On the plus side, I found the new Presenter view an excellent addition. With it, while you're projecting a presentation, your audience will see the current slide, while you'll also see your notes, the next slide and a timer. That makes it easy to read from your notes and know what's coming next when giving your presentation.

A new animations pane is useful for creating and previewing animations in your presentations. I found it exceptionally useful because it let me control pretty much everything about animations in slides, including customizing the duration of the animation, whether to play sound along with it, and a number of effects options. And it's also great for adding multiple animations to a slide, because you can use the pane to easily change the order of the animations, delete animations and add news ones.

Outlook 2016

If you feel that Apple Mail is purgatory, Outlook 2016 will be a must-have.

As with the other applications in Office 2016, Outlook has gotten a visual makeover to make it look and work more like its Windows counterpart. Clutter has been reduced, although it still relies on a menu above the ribbon for many tasks.

Unread messages now are denoted by a blue vertical bar rather than by bold text, making them stand out much more. As a result, I found it much easier to scan unread mail in my inbox. Links to your calendar, notes, contacts and tasks are no longer buried underneath the mailboxes on the left-hand pane, but instead appear in big type at the very bottom of the screen. They're now impossible to miss.

Performance has been considerably improved. Messages appear instantly, search is quick and I experienced no lags or delays. Microsoft says that's because it's switched from its previous proprietary database to SQLite. The company also says this makes Outlook's database not just faster, but less liable to crashes and corruptions.

You receive messages faster on an Exchange account not just because of the new database, but because in the old Outlook for the Mac, Exchange Web Services polled the mail server for new messages approximately only once a minute. Outlook 2016 has done away with that delay — it now polls continually.

 

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